WASHINGTON -- When two good teams square off, with aces on the mound, each play and opportunity is magnified.
That was the case Saturday, when Tim Hudson allowed one run in seven innings to out-duel Stephen Strasburg as the red-hot Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals, 3-1, before a sellout crowd of 41,992 fans and a national television audience.
The Braves, with their eighth consecutive victory, improved to 10-1, while the Nationals fell to 7-4.
Hudson (2-0) is 15-5 in his career against Washington after he gave up only four hits with no walks while throwing 90 pitches, 60 for strikes.
Justin Upton reached first on an error in the third inning by Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Upton then stole second after he appeared to be picked off by Strasburg.
Rookie Evan Gattis of Atlanta then hit a two-run home run off Strasburg (1-2) to make it 2-0.
"Physical mistakes happen," said Danny Espinosa, the Washington second baseman. "We are a very good defensive team. Sometimes mistakes are going to happen."
Hudson and the Braves took advantage of those mistakes.
"He is our horse; he is our ace," Atlanta first baseman Chris Johnson said of Hudson. "His career has been amazing. It is comfortable to play behind him."
Added manager Fredi Gonzales: "He was good. He was really, really good. He got us back in the dugout to get us some at bats. I thought we had some good at bats against Strasburg."
Jayson Heyward drove in an insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 3-1 when he beat out a fielder's choice as the Nationals tried to turn a double play with the bases loaded against reliever Ryan Mattheus.
"It was a little cushion," Gonzalez said.
Strasburg has lost his last two starts.
"He is my horse," manager Davey Johnson said. "I need to give him every chance to win that ballgame."
Eric O'Flaherty pitched the eighth for Atlanta and retired Espinosa for the second out on a grounder to second that brought a short argument from Johnson, who thought the throw by Dan Uggla drew the first baseman off the bag.
Wilson Ramos then hit a grounder off O'Flaherty that bounced to Uggla, who threw to first for the third out in the eighth. Craig Kimbrel picked up his sixth save in as many chances with a scoreless ninth.
Hudson was aided by right fielder Heyward, who made a diving catch in the corner with no one on base to rob Adam LaRoche of at least a double for the third out in the seventh.
"How about the play Heyward made?" Gonzalez raved.
Espinosa hit a home run to right field, his first of the season, off Hudson with two out in the fifth to pull the Nationals to within 2-1.
The Nationals wasted a scoring chance in the first. Denard Span led off with a single and went to second on a bad pickoff throw by Hudson. Jason Werth then hit a liner to center that was caught by B.J. Upton as Span broke immediately for third. Upton threw to second to easily double up Span.
Strasburg gave up two unearned runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in six innings, but threw 112 pitches, 68 for strikes.
NOTES: Washington manager Davey Johnson said after the game that starting catcher Wilson Ramos might have pulled a hamstring and could go on the disabled list. ... Atlanta began play Saturday with a team ERA of 2.08, the best in the majors. ... The Braves are off to their best start since 1994, when they started 13-1. ... Washington leadoff man Denard Span, acquired from the Twins before this season, began the day with an on-base average of .467, fourth among leadoff hitters in the majors. In 2011 the Nationals had an OBP of .285 from the leadoff spot, last in the majors.